PCT 2019: Day 105, Bradley Creek Trail to Mt. Thielsen Trail

Gathers in power like a lightning rod

I enjoy hiking with Sunkist and Bluejay, but I don’t often see them during the day. We have different hiking styles.

They prefer to leave camp early. It takes me a little longer to get moving in the morning. Dave is more like me in that way. We usually leave at the same time.

DateMonday, August 19, 2019
WeatherWarming to a high in the low 80s
Trail ConditionsLong but moderate climbs and descents
Today's Miles20.3
Trip Miles1535.7

When Sunkist and Bluejay left camp this morning, we knew we wouldn’t see them for a day or so. They said they wanted to hike to Diamond Lake, which was not on the trail. A resort with a lodge and restaurant was located there, and they intended to stay overnight before returning to the trail tomorrow.

Getting there involved more effort than Dave and I were interested in doing. We also didn’t need to resupply because we had plenty of food until we reached Crater Lake.

Our campsite last night was located at 6,600 feet. The trail today would not drop more than 400 feet lower from that elevation.

This could have been another day to add a few extra miles, but doing so would make it harder for Bluejay and Sunkist to catch up. Keeping our mileage to around 20 miles for the day would be sufficient.

After camping at a dry campsite, our first task this morning was to refill our water bottles. Less than two miles down the trail was a side trail to Six Horse Spring, so we headed to that.

The trail to the spring dropped steeply from the main trail. On my way down, I slipped and fell backward, with my back landing on a tree stump. I considered myself lucky when I realized I hadn’t hurt myself. Thankfully, the stump was partially rotted.

With an easy section of trail and no need to push for extra miles, I was able to take time to call Kim when I discovered I had cell service. We talked for 20 minutes.

Later, when I saw I had service again, I stopped to download some podcasts.

The ridge I was walking was mostly tree-covered, so there weren’t many views. From one of the few open spots, I was able to see Miller Lake. I didn’t see anyone on the water but the lake is reported to be good for fishing.

Farther down the ridge, another opening revealed a view I didn’t want to see. I saw what appeared to be a small forest fire.

After having passed through several burn areas already, I have seen the destruction a fire can cause. This one was much too far to cause a problem for me or other hikers, but it reminded me of the danger.

The trail made a short descent to the junction of Maidu Lake Trail, and I stopped there to eat lunch.

When I began hiking again, the trail made a long, gradual climb, ascending 1,400 feet in 5.6 miles.

A sign posted at the top of the climb identified it as the highest point on the trail in Oregon and Washington. This didn't seem possible, as I assumed there were sections of trail in Washington that went higher, but that wasn’t the case.

I also thought the high point would offer outstanding views of the surrounding area, but it was underwhelming. The high point was just a large, dusty meadow surrounded by scrubby trees.

Before long, however, Mt. Thielsen came into view and that was worth looking at. It’s now an extinct volcano, which hasn’t erupted in the last 250,000 years. Geologists say there are many signs of an active geologic history.

Lava flowed from this area for 10 million years, raising the mountain to more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Near the end of this active period, a cinder cone formed. Glaciers severely eroded the mountain, leaving a horn-shaped, 2,200-foot tall spire with jagged edges.

Mt. Thielsen now stands at 9,182 feet.

The trail descended to a creek, where. I found Dave and another hiker. We collected as much water as possible here. The next reliable water source was more than 20 miles away, though a water cache was reported to be located about eight miles away.

After crossing the creek, the trail climbed 400 feet in a little more than two miles before reaching the Mt. Thielsen Trail.

Comments in the Guthooks app said we could find tent spaces near the trail junction, but it took some effort to find enough room for our tents that wasn’t on top of a rock slab.

Dave and I were the only hikers there when we arrived, though two other hikers arrived about an hour later.

From my tent, I could see Mt. Thielsen radiate in a golden hue from the alpenglow created by the setting sun. The colors were in brilliant contrast with the mostly-clear sky.

Seeing the sky, I knew there was no reason to be concerned about a storm tonight. That was good to know because our campsite stood on an exposed ridge at 7,334 feet.

Notably, the mountain is called "the lightning rod of the Cascades." This name comes from the fulgurites that are found there.

These are shards of glass, which were formed when a lightning strike melts and fuses sand, and vaporizes surrounding sand. The resulting glass looks like a frozen or petrified lightning bolt.

Crows in the treetops, motors in the road
Structures of darkness that the dawn corrodes
Into the title montage of a new episode
Whisper wells up from the deeps untrod
Overflows the channel and spreads abroad
Gathers in power like a lightning rod
Ooh-wee, all the sights I've seen
In the depth of the world and the heart of a dream
Ooh-wee, all the places I've been
Each one reflected in the states I'm in, uh huh
States I'm in

From "States I'm In” by Bruce Cockburn

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